Trying something a little different on {grow} today – I’m presenting TWO sides of an issue. Isn’t THAT refreshing?
A few weeks ago, I remarked in a post that social media measurement is still a concern among many marketers and suggested that the world needs a cross-platform, comprehensive dashboard for small businesses. And it should be free.
Steve Dodd, a regular contributor to the {grow} comment community disagreed on the “free” part. So I figured we would have a blog duel, or a “bluel” so to speak. I’ll present my side and then Steve will present his and everybody will probably learn something. I go first. It’s still my blog!
“Pro free” by me
In the early days of the Internet, one expert predicted the invention of the search engine, but thought the software would be so expensive only a few people on Earth would be able to afford to use it.
What he couldn’t predict was that the price of information storage dropped to near-zero, enabling revolutionary new business models based on “free.” Google and thousands of other companies can provide some of the world’s greatest software at no charge because they’ve created new revenue channels to support their business machine. And I thank you, good Sir Google. You’ve changed my life.
When the core asset of a business is data storage/management, there’s no good reason why this business model wouldn’t work the same way for a measurement dashboard. Give it away to the people, dominate the space, then charge advertisers and corporations out the wazoo to get on board. Everybody’s happy. It’s the American Way.
“Against free” by Steve Dodd
This is an “apples to oranges” comparison. Search and measurement are very different products. Technologies designed for consumer consumption (Internet Search, TV, Radio, etc.) are meant to deliver targeted advertising. Their advertisers are paying for that right, controlling the deliverable, and thereby monetizing the service. Ultimately, the consumer is the product being sold to the advertiser. The low-cost storage, computing power and Internet technologies are just the distribution vehicles.
Measurement and analytics on the other hand, are independent, fee-based services that all advertisers gladly fund to determine how best to advertise to the viewers. Companies like Nielsen get huge money for this service. This is no different than measurement services for the social web. The more comprehensive and automated those services are, the more the advertisers/marketers are willing to pay because of the value they gain.
Social media agencies charge significant amounts for their expertise in interpreting the results from these measurement solutions. Why shouldn’t the tool providers share in this revenue, based on the unique value they’ve added? This way they can fund the development of improved services.
Also, without the pressure of advertising, the agency/user knows their results are not compromised. In the case of free search and email, not only are you getting advertising but the sequence of the search results themselves are skewed based on fees paid and other technical manipulation (i.e., SEO). Furthermore, the sophisticated analytical services actually remove advertising content (spam) from their results to ensure users actually receive clean, valuable user generated content.
For the small business on a budget, there are many very solid measurement services available for free. The caveat is that the user assumes the responsibility of pulling all the pieces together (including spam removal in many cases). Many of them depend on advertising to some degree. The rest promote more advanced, fee-based services. The choice of which direction to take (comprehensive fee based or free service components) rests with the user and their business requirements.
Another analogy is the open source software market. There is a wealth of free computer programs available through the open source market. In fact, most of the social media monitoring/measurement/analytic systems out there contain a lot of open source modules. As the open source market has evolved, fee-based business applications have been built by integrating these free programs. Great examples of this are in the CRM space. Choices in the social media market are evolving in much the same way.
What do YOU think?
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